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3 Oct 2014
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This Sceptred Isle

Watt, Arkwright & Industrial Revolution
The late 18th century saw the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. In 1769 Richard Arkwright invented a spinning frame powered by water; James Watt patented his steam engine; Josiah Wedgwood opened another pottery and the Royal Academy had its first president, Joshua Reynolds. The style and location of industry was changing. New inventions and the relationship between technology and science were the reasons.

In1769 Britain was almost entirely an agricultural society. In the last 40 years of the 18th century exports and imports more than doubled in value. Steam engines provided a new source of power in factories and foundries. Canals were constructed which carried coal cheaply to new centres of industry. New methods of smelting led to an increase in the output of iron. New roads, with a hard and durable surface, connected the new centres of industries with the ports.

James Watt
James Watt
JAMES WATT (1736-1819)

  • The engineer son of a prosperous Greenock merchant
  • In 1756 apprenticed to a Glasgow scientific instrument-maker
  • Surveyed the big Scottish canals and rivers and was responsible for deepening the Clyde and dredging the river harbours
  • It was while he was repairing a model of a Newcomen steam engine in 1764 that Watt improved its design
  • Ten years later he and Matthew Boulton built the new engine at Birmingham
  • First used the terms horse power and power unit
  • The Watt comes from his name

did you know?
In the first decade of the century 22 patents were registered, in the 1760s there were 205 new patents. By the last decade there would be more than 900 new inventions.

Arthur Young helped found the Board of Agriculture.


The landlords rent was found to be, sixteen million pounds a year. The tenants profit, eighteen million, two hundred and thirty seven thousand, six hundred and ninety one pounds. The clergy, five and a half million pounds, the industrious poor more than fourteen and half million pounds.

The soil, sixty six millions. Manufacturers, twenty seven million, commerce ten million, publick revenue nine million, sums at interest, five millions, law and physic, five million. .....

Select historical period

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1760George II dies
George III becomes king
Wolfe dies at Quebec
1761 Pitt the Elder falls from power
1762 Newcastle resigns
Bute becomes Prime Minister
1763 Bute resigns
Grenville becomes Prime Minister
1765 Rockingham becomes Prime Minister
Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny
1766 Grafton becomes nominal Prime Minister
1768 Royal Academy of Arts founded
1769 Captain Cook lands at Tahiti
1770 Lord North becomes Prime Minister
1773 Boston Tea Party
1775 American Revolution begins
1776 American Declaration of Independence
1778 Death of Pitt the Elder
France joins America against Britain
1782 North resigns
Rockingham becomes Prime Minister
Rockingham dies
Shelburne becomes Prime Minister

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